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Would Mkhitaryan playing deeper work for Man Utd?

| 04.10.2016

Arsenal have previously done it with Santi Cazorla and Pep Guardiola has wasted little time doing something similar with both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

A case can certainly be made that playing intelligent and tactically-aware playmakers in deeper positions can work in the right set up.

Cazorla has already played more passes in the half of the opposition (314) than anyone else this season, doing so at a success rate above 90%.

By playing deeper rather than in a number-10 position, the Spaniard is able to get on the ball more frequently and get the Gunners moving forward quicker. His shuttling dribbles and ability with both feet allow him to be more press-resistant than most and work the ball into teammates in space in the final third.

Meanwhile, Silva in particular for Man City has provided a key link between defence and attack given his appreciation of space and ability to find himself an opening to receive a pass.

Both benefit from having a more recognised and disciplined holding midfielder around them to offer protection.

With Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Manchester United have a player possessing a similar skillset to this duo – at his best when roaming into space to receive possession, resisting the pressing intentions of opponents and being a key link component in attacking moves.

By playing the Armenian out wide, although he would have the licence to drift infield and become almost a second number 10 at times, the restricted space in which he has the capacity to operate acts as an obvious negative.

Playing Paul Pogba in this role is yet to reap rewards for Jose Mourinho, as he has seemingly lacked the positional awareness defensively and has a success rate down below 84%.

Allowing him to play as a number 10 and receiving passes in space from Mkhitaryan looks the best way to get the most from the world’s most expensive player, as he will be allowed to dribble dangerously at the opposition in the final third.

A standard Arsenal build is Cazorla feeding Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez in the final third, while Silva will look to pick out De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling or Sergio Aguero. Mkhitaryan could target Pogba or Juan Mata in the hope of either of those assisting the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Marcus Rashford.

Man Utd are now 16/1 to win the Premier League and the quicker that Mkhitaryan’s tactical intelligence and ball retention skills are unleashed, the better the prospect of the title heading to Old Trafford.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing



Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.